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The Last King of Scotland is an award-winning 1998 novel by journalist Giles Foden. Focusing on the rise of Ugandan President Idi Amin and his reign as dictator from 1971 to 1979, the novel is a fictional memoir of a fictional Scottishmarker doctor in Amin's employ. Giles Foden's novel received critical acclaim and numerous awards when it was published by Faber and Faber in 1998. It interweaves fiction and historical fact. In 2006 a film by the same name was produced based on the novel.

Plot introduction

The protagonist is a fictional character named Nicholas Garrigan, a young Scottish doctor who goes to work in Uganda out of a sense of idealism and adventure. He relates how he came to be the personal physician and confidant of Amin, the president of Uganda from his coup d'etat in 1971 until his deposition in 1979. The novel focuses on Garrigan's relationship and fascination with the president, who soon grows into a brutal and ruthless dictator. Garrigan acts repeatedly against his better judgment, remaining in Amin's employment until he is far past the point of easy escape physically or morally. He is gradually drawn into the corruption and paranoia of Amin's rule, including the expulsion of the Asians, with disastrous results for those around him.

Drawing on his twenty years of living in Africa and his background as a journalist, Foden researched the events surrounding Amin's rise to power and downfall. He interviewed many of those who watched and participated in the Ugandan ruler's eight-year reign. The author evokes the form of a memoir by inserting fictional newspaper articles, journal entries, along with actual events.

In a 1998 interview with the online magazine Boldtype, Foden said he based parts of Garrigan's character on an associate of Amin named Bob Astles. As a Britishmarker soldier who worked his way into Amin's favour, Astles was much more "proactive" than Garrigan, according to Foden. He paid the price by spending six and a half years in a Ugandan jail after the fall of his protector. Astles compromised himself by his direct association with Amin's security forces. While Amin was in power, Astles was alternately either favoured or punished; he was imprisoned and tortured on at least one occasion.

The title refers to Amin's giving himself the title of King of Scotland, among others.

Awards and nominations

Editions in print

  • 1998: New York: Knopf; Distributed by Random House, hardback, ISBN 9780375403606 (English)
  • 1998: London: Faber Paperbacks, paperback, ISBN 9780571194865 (English)
  • 1998: Faber and Faber, paperback, ISBN 0-571-19564-4 (English)
  • 1999: Vintage Books USA, paperback, ISBN 0-375-70331-4 (English)
  • 1999: Random House USA, hardcover, ISBN 0-375-40360-4 (English)


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